On the back of a couple of very hot days here, our butterfly and dragonfly lists for the year have risen dramatically. Now we are up to 16 species of butterfly:

Brimstone

Orange tip

Common blue

Brown argus

Small copper

Small white

Large white

Small skipper

Large skipper

Meadow brown

Ringlet (25 June)

Painted lady

Small tortoiseshell

Red admiral

Comma

Peacock

And the following 15 species of dragonfly:

Common blue damselfly

Blue-tailed damselfly

Azure damselfly

Variable damselfly

Red-eyed damselfly

Banded demoiselle

Large red damselfly

Hairy dragonfly

Emperor dragonfly

Scarce chaser

Black-tailed skimmer

Four-spotted chaser

Norfolk hawker 

Ruddy darter (25 June)

Brown hawker (26 June)

In terms of more species to come, we should still see gatekeeper butterflies on the wing later in July, as well as Southern and Migrant hawker dragonflies further on in summer too. There is a huge variety of solitary bees, wasps and bumblebees on the wing too, and the light sandy Breckland soils in Brandon Fen are a good place to look for these. The base of the poplar trees here in June and July do support a few hornet clearwing moths but they can be tricky to see. They develop inside the base of the trees and emerge from the trunks at this time of year, and mornings should be best. They look like this:

  

 Photo credit: Two different angles of a Hornet clearwing moth, taken by David White (my predecessor) in 2019 on a June morning in Brandon Fen!

In terms of bird life, the feeders are getting back up to full throttle with a good variety of songbirds using them, including a surprise chiffchaff. It seems to creep about on the tray itself, right next to it's favourite willow, picking up little insects as it goes. It tried its luck with a passing blue damselfly earlier but just missed by millimetres! We get plenty of blue tit (many of which are juveniles), great tit, coal tit and blackbird (including some recent fledglings which leap up and take chunks out of the suet balls). A few weeks back its parents were doing the same but now we are in early summer, the feeders are a super spot to look for young birds and get used to juvenile plumages, as feeders often offer a reliable but easy food source for birds which suddenly find themselves without Mum and Dad. Here's a small gang of goldfinch and greenfinch enjoying themselves this morning:

  Photo credit: Heidi Jones

Further down the reserve, bitterns and marsh harriers have been showing very well, with many active nests now full of growing chicks which eat an awful lot. You may see marsh harriers doing food passes- where a male passes caught food mid-air to the female, who rises up briefly from the nest to collect it. For the bitterns though, the male plays no part in rearing the young and the female does all the hunting herself, of fish, frogs and small mammals. As the chicks grow she works her way out from the nest looking for new food sources, and 'feeding flights' are short trips to favourite ditches and pools to collect more food. They typically last ten minutes or so in the new spot before flying back with a beak-full of food to feed to the young.

Keep an eye on the skies above you from midday onwards too, for fast-moving hobbies hunting dragonflies. They are extremely fast swift-shaped falcons that dip and dive through the air and over water in search of food. If you haven't seen them before they look like small but dark and well-marked peregrines, with a rusty red patch under the tail that can be very obvious. Lakenheath Fen is a good spot to look for these and to enjoy them after they have travelled from Africa to be here.

Another beautiful photo to come out of this week is this stoat family, taken by one of our visitors (Emma Braden) on 21 June (see below). It was taken at the Photography Station where they are often seen, another hotspot is New Fen, near the viewpoint. They seem to like man-made structures to breed under, with lots of lush vegetation to hunt in nearby for small mammals and birds. If you go down to Joist Fen, do keep an eye on the pool in front of the viewpoint for otter as we had a sighting here on ... and roe deer have been spotted in Brandon Fen recently. If you do the Brandon Fen circular trail, do listen out for whitethroat, reed bunting, sedge warbler and reed warbler singing in the open areas of reed and scrub too.

  Photo credit: A stunning image of a stoat family, taken by Emma Braden on 21 June 2020 at the Photography Station!

As a quick summary of the facilities we are offering at the moment- our Visitor Centre remains shut but we have a Welcome Point which is staffed during opening hours (09:00 to 17:00 daily), where you can find out the latest in terms of wildlife sightings and, for new visitors, where we can show you the way! Our accessible toilet is open for use, but we still have a temporary path closure in place between New Fen and Joist Fen. Mere Hide is also closed so for anyone wanting to visit Joist Fen viewpoint they will have to do so by walking along the riverbank footpath which you can pick up at several points.

With best wishes for a happy weekend of wildlife watching!

- Heidi and the team at RSPB Lakenheath Fen

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